PLENTY have turned down the chance to fight Kubrat Pulev in Sofia, Bulgaria, but not Hughie Fury.
The British heavyweight champion, last seen knocking out Sam Sexton in five rounds, has accepted an IBF eliminator fight against Pulev, the Bulgarian, on October 27, and knows victory takes him a step closer to challenging the winner of the September 22 showdown between IBF, WBA and WBO champion Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin.
“The fact that Hughie Fury is coming to Bulgaria when many others ran away speaks volumes,” said Pulev, 25-1 (13). “I understand that he is very motivated because this is an eliminator fight for a chance at the world title. I suggest he stops thinking about the world title for a moment and comes prepared for a real battle. I am already in beast mode and I’m hungry for my return in the ring.”
Pulev, now 37, is a former two-time European heavyweight champion on a five-fight win-streak. His only loss to date is a fifth-round stoppage defeat at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko.
“It’s taken a lot of time to make this fight happen and I want to thank all of those involved,” said Fury. “I want to fight for world titles and to do that I need to beat the guys at the top of the division.
“Kubrat Pulev is a serious fight for the mandatory position and I know I’ve got to be the real deal to beat him. I believe I’m going to do that in his back yard where others trembled at the thought of it.”
I don’t know about trembling at the thought of it, but, certainly, others have thought better of it. Dillian Whyte, Jarrell Miller and Dominic Breazeale, for instance, believed there were better opportunities to be found elsewhere and refused to so much as entertain the idea of rocking up in Bulgaria at some point in 2018. They each ripped up the invite.
Credit, then, should go to Fury, 21-1 (11), for at least showing a desire to take the chance and for giving it a go. He has form, too. The Sexton win was a good one, perhaps his best to date, and even the sole blemish on his record, a 2017 loss to Joseph Parker, was one debated by the few who watched it and had Mick Hennessy, Fury’s promoter, claiming he’d witnessed “shades of Ali” that night at the Manchester Arena.
I mean, with that sort of endorsement, he must be ready.
Back in June 2017, Billy Joe Saunders was gearing up to fight Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze, only for the plan to fall apart when Khurtsidze was named as one of 33 criminals arrested in a crackdown last summer by the US Justice Department.
Khurtsidze, we learned, was involved in a Brooklyn crime syndicate known as the Shulaya Enterprise – described as an “organized criminal group operating under the direction and protection of Razhden Shulaya” – and subsequently found guilty of racketeering, wire fraud and various other charges.
Now, as Saunders prepares for a WBO middleweight title defence against Demetrius Andrade in Boston on October 20, Khurtsidze has, by all accounts, been battling a Colombian – prisoner, not prizefighter – at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center.
Hasn’t been doing a good job of it, either. The website Crime Russia reports that Khurtsidze and Shulaya have both suffered knife wounds following a dispute between Shulaya and a leader of the Colombian gang that escalated into something ugly. The incident left Khurtsidze with facial damage, which means he now awaits not only a sentence for his crimes but also a return to health, and does so from a hospital bed.
What a difference a year makes. From preparing to box for the world middleweight title at the Copper Box and taking in the joys of Westfield during fight week, to getting arrested in Brooklyn, locked away in jail and then stabbed by a Colombian gang member. Fair to say it’s been quite the whirlwind 12 (and a bit) months for Avtandil Khurtsidze.